Friday, November 11, 2011

Mixed Bag: good and bad in African agriculture

In the most distressing news I've heard recently put in a positive light, 20 Tanzanian farmers were invited to Uganda to learn more about using human feces as fertilizer. They would like to convince us that this is a good thing because fertilizer use is so low, but it's also a great way for spreading diseases. Their numbers are 20 years old, but show that a lot more fertilizer is supposedly distributed than was ever spread on crops. That doesn't suggest the problem was lack of fertilizer availability.

Flooding in northwestern Nigeria (Sokoto state, pictured) destroyed 1 billion Naira worth of crops ($6.7 million).

In much happier news, ICRISAT has been providing some Mali farmers with groundnut (peanut) seeds that take only 3 months to harvest instead of 4. As rain patterns have shifted, assumedly due to climate change, the rainy season has been getting shorter and shorter. If I understand the report correctly, it claims that groundnut production has also increased 10-fold.

They also established a cooperative (starting at 20 members, now 65) to coordinate storage. Each member of the cooperative contributes 20 kg of groundnuts for storage. 10 of them they get back later in the year (as a form of forced storage for behavioral economics reasons) and the other 10 are sold (for about $320) to give the cooperative a source of loanable capital.

Ugandan rice production is up significantly - 66% during the last decade. Instead of importing rice, they now export to South Sudan, Kenya, and DRC. The article credits Nerica (New Rice for Africa) with much of the growth. I take the article to be saying that a new survey by the Ministry of Agriculture claims that rice exports are now valued more than any other traditional food export.

Zimbabwe is going to start handing out agricultural input vouchers to vulnerable farmers this week, entitling them to "10 kilograms of maize seed, one 50-kilogram bag of compound D and one 50 kilogram bag of ammonium nitrate fertilizer."

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